Assistant-director of the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge Adam Barrow labelled the crowd at Saturday night’s Balloon Glow and Night Markets as the largest he’d seen in the event’s history.
Mr Barrow estimates eight to 10 thousand people entered the gates at the Canowindra Showground, however he is eagerly waiting to here the exact figure in coming days.
“There was a massive crowd. There was a lot of people which is pleasing to see,” he said.
“It’s the biggest I’ve seen. I haven’t seen the numbers yet but I’m really interested to see how many there were.”
Unfortunately for the crowd two of the main attractions for the balloon glow – Kermie the Frog and Jewel the Hummingbird – were unable to participate due to an inconveniently strong breeze.
Regular balloons were able to light up the sky, however, for a spectacular 15-minute show.
“That afternoon the winds were pretty strong but it died right down before the scheduled time. As the burners went up it picked up again,” Mr Barrow said.
“The balloons struggled to stay inflated. The shapes couldn’t handle it, the heart was up but the frog and the hummingbird don’t like the wind. They filled with cold air but the breeze flattened them.
“The pilots did an amazing job to keep them up for as long as they did. That was right on at the top end of the operating safely window.”
Two-time world champion American pilot John Petrehn flew his way to victory in the week-long competition with Sydney-based pilot Andy Roberts finishing second and Shaun Kavanagh third.
All three will now compete at the world championships in Austria during August.
“We flew nine mornings in nine days. The internationals couldn’t believe it,” Mr Barrow said.
“We were really lucky with the weather throughout the week. Canowindra [weather] is always good but we were really lucky.”
The Key Grab on Sunday morning attracted a huge crowd at the Canowindra Sports Oval, however no pilot was successful in picking it up.
Mr Petrehen and Australian pilot Paul Gibbs came closest, missing by about 12 centimetres.
Mr Barrow said he’ll back again next year hoping to help see further improvement.
“It was a really good event. I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all went and with the support from the farmers, sponsors, volunteers, the public, the competitors. Everything was ideal,” he said.
“We need to make sure the event remains true to its roots. We need to maintain its authenticity and keep it in the region. We’ll look at feedback on entertainment and prices and stuff like that when it comes in. You need to keep improving.
“Onwards and upwards.”
BALLOON GLOW GOES GLOBAL WITH LIVE STREAM INTO CHINA
SPECTACULAR footage of Canowindra’s Cabonne Country Balloon Glow was streamed live into China as the annual hot air ballooning festival soared to new heights on the weekend.
A contingent of reporters and production staff from China’s Xinhua News Agency beamed Saturday night’s balloon glow, night markets and musical entertainment to a potential audience of more than two million people in China and Australia.
The crew from the news agency’s Sydney bureau were broadcasting as part of a record crowd at the Canowindra International Challenge’s signature event.
Cabonne mayor Kevin Beatty said the festival’s status continues to grow on the ballooning calendar, which is helping to put Canowindra on the tourism map, not only in Australia but overseas.
“This live coverage into China has taken that international exposure to a new level,” Cr Beatty said.
“China is a very lucrative but extremely competitive market, so this interest from the Xinhua News Agency should have tremendous benefits for Canowindra and Cabonne.”
Within 24 hours of the broadcast, the balloon glow had been viewed by 250,000 people on the agency’s Australian social media platforms.
Some of the world’s elite hot air balloon pilots have been participating at Canowindra, with balloonists from the USA, France, England and New Zealand competing against Australia’s best.
The rapidly increasing popularity of the Canowindra Challenge prompted organisers to move the balloon glow from the Canowindra Sports Ground, where it has been held in recent years, to Canowindra Showground to cater for the growing number of spectators.
The decision was vindicated as thousands poured through the gates to witness the entertainment.
The crowd was bolstered by hundreds of visitors in motorhomes, campervans and tents who booked out the 250 camping sites at the showground.